How to Handle a Recession


Many people in the United States are anxious about the country’s economy. This is understandable with all of the job losses, home foreclosures, and falling value of investments. These things do not just face this country, but many places in the world are also facing economic turmoil.

The book of Revelation warned of the fall of the Roman empire that was to come. Naturally, when the empire fell, the global economy suffered. Under Roman rule “the merchants of the earth [had] become rich” (Revelation 18:3). When Rome fell, the merchants would “weep and mourn over her, because no one [would buy] their cargoes anymore” (Revelation 18:11). “And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning” (Revelation 18:19). But the Christians in that day were to have a different perspective: “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her” (Revelation 18:20). While the merchants were mourning, Christians were rejoicing.

We should understand that the collapse of the American economy is not exactly parallel with the fall of Rome. Rome was punished by God for sin (Revelation 18:4-8). The United States suffers because of irresponsibility and other factors. But like the Christians in the early church, our perspective about these things should naturally be different from that of the people of the world. So let us look and see what principles we find in the Bible to help us handle our current economic hardships.

Be Content

The first attitude we should develop or reinforce in our lives is contentment. Paul told the Philippians, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity” (Philippians 4:11-12). We may have times of prosperity and other times when we will be in need. Paul told Timothy, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:8). Some of the things that people in our society have come to think of as “necessities” are not even mentioned in this verse – such as a house. What if you cannot afford a house or lose your house? You must still learn to be content.

Jesus said, “Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). It may be tempting to worry, especially in these times, about how we will make our house payment, pay for health insurance, save for our children’s education, etc. But if we do this, we risk having “the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word,” leaving us unfruitful and useless in God’s service (Matthew 13:22).

Contentment is a challenge when we are caught up in materialism. Jesus said not to “store up for yourselves treasures on earth,” but rather to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). Jesus went on to say, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [the necessities of life we often worry about] will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Do not worry. Do not focus on the material things of this life. Rather, be content, even if all you have is “food and covering” (1 Timothy 6:8).

Be Thankful

We must also remember to be thankful, even in the midst of financial hardships. A lack of contentment, as discussed above, is a sign of ingratitude. All of our blessings come from God (James 1:17), no matter how much or little that is. Sometimes we are tempted to compare ourselves with others and see what we have compared to what they have. When we do this, we are actually focusing on what we do not have (we do not have a car as nice as theirs, do not have a house as big, etc.). We are not being grateful for what we do have when we do this.

We often stress the importance of Bible authority – being able to go to the Scriptures to show why we do and say the things we do. There is good reason for this. Paul said, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of [by the authority of] the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). But we must not forget the very next phrase – “giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Is it important that we recognize and act according to the authority of Christ? Absolutely! In the same way, it is important that we are thankful to God for what He has done for us.

Be Generous

There will always be people in need (Matthew 26:11), but times of economic trouble broaden the problem. We must look for opportunities to help: “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). James showed the importance of generosity by tying it to our faith: “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what us is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:15-17).

Christians also have a responsibility to give to the local church. Paul instructed the church in Corinth, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2). An amount or percentage we are to give is never specified in the New Testament. But we do know that it should correspond with our current income (“as he may prosper”). There may be times when one cannot give as much as before; but the church has work to do, regardless of the economic conditions. So whatever amount we give, we must do so liberally (2 Corinthians 9:13).

The brethren of Macedonia provide a good example for us in being generous despite one’s own poverty. More people now consider themselves poor or struggling financially than would have a few years ago. But that does not mean we cannot be generous to others. Paul said of the Macedonians, “Their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.” They gave “beyond their ability,” even having to beg Paul to take the gift they collected for needy saints in other places (2 Corinthians 8:2-4). You may find yourself struggling, but do not think that because of this you cannot help others. Look for opportunities that you might be able to act upon to show generosity.

Be Hardworking

The New Testament gives men the responsibility to provide for themselves and their families. Paul told the brethren in Thessalonica, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). He told Timothy, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

This is not always easy, or even possible, to do. It is especially difficult when jobs are hard to come by. But we must be willing to do what we can, even if it means working longer hours or picking up a second job. Paul worked like this to provide an example to the Thessalonians. He told them, “Nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example” (2 Thessalonians 3:8-9).

We must also work, not just to provide for ourselves and our families, but to be in the position where we can help others. Paul said, “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (Ephesians 4:28). Paul also showed himself as an example to the Ephesian brethren of this, telling the elders from that local church, “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me” (Acts 20:34).

Be a Good Steward

The Bible speaks often of the need for us to be good stewards of the blessings God has given us. During times of economic hardship, there is less room to be wasteful. In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus described a man who asked for and received his share of the inheritance from his father and then went off to a distant country. However, this man was not a good steward of this inheritance. He instead “squandered his estate with loose living” (Luke 15:13). He later found himself broke. At the same time, a famine occurred in the land (Luke 15:14). During this economic downturn, he was unable to find good work or help from others (Luke 15:15-16). He finally “came to his senses” (Luke 15:17) and returned humbly and penitently to his father.

Our situation may not be as severe as it was for the prodigal son. But as the economic turmoil in this country worsens and becomes prolonged, we may find ourselves hurting (if we are not already). Regardless of the degree to which you are feeling the recession, be a good steward of what you have. If you are not suffering yet, good stewardship may delay hardship for you. If you are suffering, do the best with what you have.

Be Hopeful

There is not cause for complete despair. Recessions do not last forever. The economy in this country likely will one day, sooner or later, turn around and improve. But most importantly, as Christians, our treasure is in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). No matter what we face here, we have something far better waiting for us if we remain faithful to God.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

Keep the right perspective about things and “press on toward the goal” (Philippians 3:14).

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